Whether you are new to the island or are a regular visitor, Mote Marine and Aquarium (a.k.a. ‘the Mote’) is definitely a must-see at some point during your vacation. It is a fun place to take the family (or friends) for a day of exploring and getting up close and personal with the sea life that inhabits the area waters as well as bodies of water around the world.
History of Mote Marine
In 1955, Cape Haze Marine Laboratory opened its doors in Placida, Florida, about 51 miles south of Sarasota where Coral Creek and Gasparilla Sound meet. It became Mote Marine Laboratory in 1960 and moved a couple of times before landing on City Island in 1978. The original research focus was on sharks but quickly grew to involve research on many species living in the waters.
Research at the Mote
You have probably visited several aquariums over the years but a visit to the Mote is like no other. The Mote goes beyond a maze of fish tanks and exhibits. Even though it has its fair share, the Mote’s research delves into so many aspects of the sea from its origins with shark research to other sea life such as dolphins, whales, and of course, manatees, to addressing today’s ecological and environment challenges and how they potentially impact the future of the earth’s water and all that lives in it.
There are scientists and marine biologists on hand to discuss their current projects. This allows you to see the viewable laboratories where research is happening and even possibly discovering something new!
Since the Mote started as a shark research center, it makes total sense that the some of the current research be devoted to this spectacular fish. Ocearch, a world-renowned leader in the tagging and research of sharks, has teamed with the Mote to tag and study sharks as they migrate the massive oceans and seas around the world.
Attractions at the Mote
There is so much to do and see at the Mote. From simply touring the exhibits to actually being part of a research charter, Mote Marine appeals to everyone who comes no matter their ages.
The most obvious attraction at the Mote is the Aquarium. In addition to seeing tons of sea life exhibits, you can actually touch sting rays and other creatures in the touch tanks and watch sharks in the 135,000-gallon shark habitat.
Anna Maria Island and the Gulf Coast are well-known for the giant creatures of our waters, the manatees. At the Mote, you have the ability to get close and personal with Hugh and Buffett, the resident manatees.
The list of creatures in the exhibits goes on and on. It is so easy to spend an entire day just meandering through the exhibits and watching all of the sea life.
Mote Marine devotes an entire area of their attractions to “experiences.” This is where the adventure really begins. There are several options from going on eco-tours around Sarasota Bay to helping with the biologists with the morning rounds of caring for all of the fish and other sea life to going out on a research charter.
To give you an idea of what a Mote Experience is like, here is an overview of a research charter. If you have a deep passion for the water and all that lives in it, a full day charter with Mote scientists and area fishermen is like nothing you ever experienced. You have the opportunity to fish and tag area sharks, eagle rays and other fish like goliath grouper and tarpon. The tag and release research allows scientists to study how the fish and how they migrate. For those who just love being on the water but are not too keen on fishing, you can simply go out with researchers to enjoy the scenery and watch dolphin, manatees and other fish in their natural environment.
So Much to See and Do
This does not even begin to touch the surface of what the Mote has to offer. It is common for guests and visitors to spend more than one day at the Mote simply because there is so much to see and do.
The best part is that you can plan your trips around lunch and/or dinner. The Mote features a café for snacks and quick bites; and, offsite, you can stop by the Salty Dog or New Pass Grill and Bait Shop for a delicious meal while sitting out on the dock and watching the water and boaters going in and out of the marina. Oh and the kids love watching the Long Boat Draw Bridge go up and down – just sayin’.
Be sure to add Mote Marine to your list of things to see and do while on your next Anna Maria Island vacation. It is worth every bit of time you spend there. Click here for ticket information.